The Top Five Best & Worst Things about Being a Writer (with Simpsons References)

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Originally posted on Lit Chic:

lisa

Being a writer isn’t all rainbows and sunshine

We’re all writers here. Whether you’re traditionally published, self-published, or pre-published, if you’re putting words down, you’re a writer by my standards. I think most of us can agree. Some of us are doing it for fun, while others are pursuing it as a full-time career. Regardless, there are many universal truths that pertain to all writers. Today, I’m going to share with you a list of the top five best and worst things about being a writer, according to me and several writers I know. And to make it more fun, I’ll be making references to my favorite episode of The Simpsons, “The Book Job.” Enjoy!

Let’s just start with the worst shall we?

lisa5

Warning: writing may cause fear, insecurity, and self-doubt!

1)Insecurity: This refers not only to financial security and job security, but also emotional security. Writers experience a lot of…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Today, let’s talk about plotting. Before you start laughing maniacally, tapping your fingertips together menacingly, or stroking your cat, I’m referring to plotting your story–not revenge.

Structure

I cannot stress enough how important it is to plan the structure of your story before you write. Planning reduces the time you will spend later cutting and rearranging scenes. Your story consists of a series of scenes and events. You probably have an idea of what is going to happen in your novel, but you may have no idea when. Take those events and put them in a logical order. Think of an event as being a dot on a connect the dot game. Every dot is carefully placed and spaced so that once they are all connected, you get a clear image.

Events and scenes should not be random. There are three things that need to happen in your narrative.

  1. The character decides to take action in order to resolve a conflict
  2. The action
  3. The resolution of the conflict

When planning your plot, you can use whatever method you like. The most popular form of outline is the plot diagram. It should look something like this:

 

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This is a very simple plot diagram. To be honest, it’s a little too simplistic, but it’s a good template when structuring your plot. Without this structure, your plot could look more like this:

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Looking back at the first chart, you’ll notice there are several key plot points: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Exposition: Consider this your setup. The exposition establishes the who, what, when, where, and why. In this early part of your novel, usually the first chapter, you should establish who the leading character is and introduce the conflict. Once you introduce your problem, your character must decide how to take action.

Rising Action: Once you’ve introduced the conflict and your character commits to resolving it, the action should start rising in a series of mini-plots. This is one of the reasons plot diagrams are so inaccurate. They show a straight line to the top. It really should look like the lines you’d see on a heart monitor. Action will naturally rise and fall as ocean waters ebb and flow. Too much dropping action, like a blood sugar drop, will result in saggy-middle syndrome. To avoid the saggy-middle syndrome, every conflict should be worse than the one before. Keep raising the stakes.

Climax: This is the turning point of your story. The climax of your story should not be the result of random events, but the consequence of your character’s actions.

Falling Action: These are the events that wrap up the plot. Tie up loose ends and satisfy your audience. This is not the time to introduce a new conflict (e.g.,The Scouring of the Shire), or introduce new characters.

Denouement: Plain and simply, this is the end.

Rule of Thumb:

  • Do not introduce a new character in the last 10,000 words of your writing.
  • Endings do not always have to be happy.
  • Do not use a Deus Ex Machina to resolve conflict.

Side Plots

The main dish is so much better with a side dish. Likewise, your plot is complimented by side plots. A side plot is the same as the main plot, only smaller. It’s like comparing a king size Snicker bar with a fun size. They have the same ingredients; they are just a different scale. Side plots follow the same structure as the main plot. Like side characters, don’t let the subplot take over the main plot. They should enhance, not distract.

Why have side plots

  • They lengthen your novel
  • They add complexity
  • They carry the theme
  • They develop characters
  • They keep readers interested
  • They offer relief from the main plot

Avoid Plot Holes

What is a plot hole? Simply an inconsistency in your storyline. Something that can’t be explained or believed.

How to identify them

  • motivation or events that can’t be explained
  • inconsistencies
  • contradictions

Some examples of plot holes:

Edward Scissor hands: Where was he getting the ice?

Jurassic Park: They spared no expense, except on security and tech support.

Harry Potter: Can go back in time. Only uses time travel once to save himself and stepfather. Could have used it again to stop the main conflict.

Frozen: What did Elsa eat in her frozen palace? How does ice magic make living snowmen, change a crown braid to a french braid, and completely change an outfit? Only Anna knows about Han’s treachery, but all the townspeople applaud when she punches him.

Toy Story: Buzz believes he is a real space ranger; however, when Andy enters the room, he goes motionless like all the other toys.

The Lord of the Rings: Arguably the eagles. Why didn’t they fly them the entire way. Floating around the internet is a great defense for why the eagles could not in fact take them the entire way, but I’m listing this one because Tolkien didn’t make it clear in his book.

There you have it, a little bit of information about plot to help you plot your . . . plot. Like a road map, a plot diagram will help guide your story in the right direction. Make sure to include those pivotal plot points in your planning, and watch out for plot holes!

 

 

 

What Stage of Writing are You in?

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imagesCAIA0UMKFor the next several months, I’ll be focusing on editing, both on my blog and in my free time. Well, it was free time before it became editing time. That doesn’t mean I won’t still be writing when I get a chance.

Even though my sister and I are twins, we aren’t on the same stage of writing. She’s in the final editing stage and I’m still writing the CFD (crappy first draft). I may have crawled, talked, and walked first, but she’s ahead of me where it really matters.

I’ve noticed many of you are in different stages as you blog about writing, editing, cover reveals, and releases. Whether you’re starting the first draft or finishing the final edits, all of these stages lead to the same goal. Please take a moment to share where you are at with your fellow writers . . . or editors or drafters, or planners.

Rising with the Moon For the Sake of Writing Research

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Not one of my pictures, though I took a lot.

Not one of my pictures, though I took a lot.

There are very few things I’m willing to get up early for: McDonald’s breakfast, garage sales, and Black Friday, to name a few. This morning (even though 4 a.m. feels like night), I got up early to see the second and final total eclipse of 2014.

For those of you who follow me on twitter, you’re probably thinking “Shut up about the blood moon already!”

After today, I promise I will, but getting to watch the lunar eclipse (from start to finish) was an important moment for me for several reasons.

A lunar eclipse is a rare phenomenon on its own (2 a year on average), but several total eclipses in a six-month period is even rarer. This was one of four total eclipses in what’s known as a tetrad. The last will be in Sept 2015. Red moons occur every 2-4 years or so, and there have been at least a dozen tetrads in the last 500 years (which still makes them pretty rare). Whenever a triad occurs, it’s interesting to note, it is usually followed by a religious movement–possibly because they are mistaken for a Biblical sign or a warning of doom. I guess we’ll have to wait until September to find out if this tetrad will cause any religious upheaval or “the end.” To be continued . . .

The last red moon I tried to witness was in April. I really wanted to see it. I set an alarm, got up early, went outside in the cold, looked up at the sky, and saw nothing but clouds. I was so disappointed. I had to wait five months to see the next one. Last night, or morning I should say, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, so I was able to see this rare event before 2015.

The main reason I wanted to see it was because I have a blood moon in my book, although I don’t call it a blood moon. This isn’t the scientific name. I’m not really sure when people started calling it that–could be a Twilight thing for all I know. Without giving away too much of the story (spoiler alert), one of my protagonist is born under a red moon, which is unfortunate for him because his culture views red moons as an unfavorable sign. All of the societies that I’ve created view celestial events from a different cultural standpoint, whether it be a falling star or a lunar eclipse. Some of them view it as a natural occurrence, while others see it as being a bad omen. As a result, this character is considered ill-fated because of a red moon.

For those of you who didn’t see it, it was spectacular. The moon during a total eclipse looks red because the way the light from the sun bounces off the earth. So technically I saw the light of sunrise and sunset at once. How cool is that? I took pictures and notes, naturally. It was worth losing sleep for.

You might call me crazy; you might call me dedicated. I woke up at 4:00 a.m., stood outside in the cold for two hours, and got weird looks from the neighbors, all for the sake of writing research.

What’s the funnest, oddest, or even most dangerous thing you’ve done to connect with your story? Did you travel somewhere your character has been? Try a new or exotic food? Stare at a moon?

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1When you start writing, you begin with an outline. When you start editing, you begin with a checklist.

Writers are often warned about the many mistakes they can and will make in their first drafts, but what about the mistakes they can make editing? During this stage, you can miss errors or introduce entirely new ones. You won’t catch all your mistakes in one pass and you shouldn’t try. Like painting a wall, editing requires several layers.

Layers. You know, like an onion–or ogres. Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it, they both have layers. The editing process is less overwhelming when broken into layers or steps. As a former copy editor, I was taught to make three passes. The first pass was for content and structure alone (except for any glaring, obvious punctuation), saving the final two passes for grammar and punctuation.

There are several types of editing. I’ve broken it down into two.

Substantive: Also called content editing or developmental editing. This is where you edit your manuscript for organization, content, and presentation to tighten and polish the writing. This includes reorganizing and restructuring so that everything fits into the big picture.

Mechanical: This is where you edit for accuracy, consistency, and conformity to style, grammar, and punctuation.

With so much to look for, how can you be sure you leave no stones unturned? This is where creating an editing checklist comes into play.

First Stage: Readability and Content

The biggest  mistake I think self-editors make is trying to fix everything at once, especially grammar. This is the LAST thing you should tackle, because you will waste so much time fixing the punctuation of a sentence only to change it or even cut it later. You don’t sew the buttons on a shirt before you’ve attached the sleeves. Think of your commas as buttons, and put them in last

If you think about it, we’re going to scrutinize your manuscript as you would admire a painting. Start with the big picture and then look for the minute details.

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What to Look For

  • Plot
    • structure: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement 
    • call to action/adventure
    • scenes in a cohesive order
    • themes support the plot
    • test, allies, enemies
    • plot holes
    • do subplots aid or detract from main plot
  • Setting:
    • when
    • where
  •  Style
    • sentence variety
    • clear, concise words
    • remove vague or overused words
    • replace passive voice for active voice
    • Remove unnecessary words, sentences, and paragraphs
    • remove redundant words, sentences, scenes, characters
    • link beginnings of chapters to the ends of preceding chapters. likewise, link the end of the book to the beginning.
  •  Conflict
    • main conflict
    • are there too many, not enough
    • is each conflict worse than the one before
  • Pacing
  • Tension/Suspense
  •  POV
    • are the POV’s distinct?
    • consistent
    • is each scene told in the right POV?
    • too many?
  •  Characters
    • consistency of physical appearance, personality, attributes
    • motivation
    • name spelled consistently
    • too many/not enough side characters
    • side characters enhance or distract from main protagonist
  •  Dialogue
    • purposeful
    • natural or contrived?

Second Stage: Mechanics and Grammar

After your first pass, you’re probably pretty tired–but you’re not done. To be honest, the first stage of editing might take two or more passes. Now that your ducks are in a row, it’s time for everyone’s favorite editing stage: grammar and punctuation.

What to Look For

  • Capital letters
    • first word in the sentence
    • proper nouns
    • names
  • Spelling
    • names of places, characters, things
    • check commonly confused words it’s/its, effect/affect, etc
  • Grammar
    • punctuation
      • commas
      • semi colons
      • colons
      • periods
  • Sentence fragments
  • Subject verb agreement
  • Verb tense
  • Hyphenation
  • Numbers
  • Quotations

The editing checklist might seem longer than your manuscript, but think of it as your polishing guide. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone. Beta readers can help spot plot holes and other content issues. Likewise, you can relieve the burden of editing altogether with an editor, though I highly recommend going through once yourself to remove obvious errors. This will save your editor time, which will save you money.

How many of you use an editing checklist? Did you find this helpful?

While I’m editing my sister’s manuscript, most of my Tuesday Tips will be about editing. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working my way down the list to discuss each part in more detail. Join me next week when I discuss plot.

Publishing is a Business…Why I Don’t Give my Book Away for Free

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Originally posted on Princess of the Light: Shining the Light For All:

Publishing is a business

My inbox is filled with newsletters and blog posts announcing free or cheap books. There is advice all over the internet preaching how, as writers, we have to have our books for free or only 99 cents.

“In order to gain readers, you need to give your work away.”

While that may be good advice for writers who have a large back list, it doesn’t help a debut writer like myself. I only have one book and to be honest, it’s not part of my business plan.

Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars. 

Nicholas Sparks speaks from experience. He is one of my favorite authors and I have read many of his books. He didn’t give away his first book in order to gain readers. He put out the best book possible and worked hard on…

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10 Tips to Organizing a Kick Ass Online Book Event

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literaryliason:

Since my sister’s book is scheduled to be released hopefully in January, I’ve been doing some research on this topic. Check out Kristen’s tips. As always, very helpful.

Originally posted on Kristen Lamb's Blog:

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Today, one of our WANA instructors is here to talk about a topic that makes most of us want to throw ourselves in traffic. BUT Angela Ackerman, our marketing maven is here to demystify Sasquatch the book launch party….

The Book Launch—WTH? What AM I THINKING?

The book launch. The discoverability blog hop. The big Christmas sale. You know you need to do it, that it will be good for your book, but the MOUNTAIN of work looming makes you want to run for Netflix and Big Bang Theory reruns.

After hosting many successful online events, I’ve learned a few tricks to making it through them alive. It involves a lot of coffee, frozen pizza for the family, and these ten steps.

1) Pick a Theme

Via Tumblr

Via Tumblr

Every event needs something jazzy to make it stand out. Pick a theme for your event that makes it fun and different…

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